The Art Of Caring

Shirley Hottman has dedicated countless hours to making quilts and organizing fundraisers for others in need. Now, as a patient at IU Health, she is using art to express her gratitude to others. Her work will be part of the CompleteLife Art Show and will be displayed at IU Health Simon Cancer Center this month.

Purple – it’s her favorite color and it’s also a color associated with strength and healing. As she dips her brush into the vibrant acrylics and spreads the purple paint across a canvas, Shirley Hottman talks about her path to healing.

It was the last day of May when Hottman was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) – a type of cancer that can occur when the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow become abnormal. She and her husband Doug were celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary when she got the call that she needed to see an oncologist/hematologist. Two days before her 60th birthday she went in for a bone marrow biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis. Under the care of IU Health oncology doctors Sridhar Bolla and Robert Nelson, she began chemotherapy. On August 27, with her sister Lynda Lowery serving as her donor, Hottman received a bone marrow transplant.

A former letter carrier, Hottman grew up in Iowa the daughter of Ken and Sharon Hanna. In addition to her sister, she has a brother Randy Hanna. She and her husband go back to junior high where they first met in Iowa. Years went by and they reconnected on Facebook and were married a year and 10 days later.

“Our kids met the night before our wedding and we knew we were in trouble. They got along swimmingly,” said Hottman. Two daughters and their spouses work at IU Health – Matt and Lauren Wolford and Dr. Alyson Craig and Dustin Craig. She’s “Nana” to three grandsons ages 7, 4 and one.

As she talks, Hottman shares pictures of some the quilts she’s made over the years. Deep purple patterns with hints of pink – 30 different pieces of fabric. Quilting is a one of many hobbies. She also knits and crochets.

“There’s probably not a craft I haven’t tried,” said Hottman. Over the years, she’s used her talents to help others. She helped raise more than $280,000 for breast cancer patients through the “Angel Ride to Save the Ta-Tas,” that included an auction of her quilts. Another benefit for childhood cancer, “Journey of Hope,” raised more awareness and funds. For that event in August, Hottman made good on a promise – if they raised $6,000 she would shave her head. She worked alongside her children on a Habitat for Humanity build with IU Health employees, has volunteered with St. Mark’s food pantry and the Gabriel Project that provides assistance to pregnant women.

Life has been a little different since her diagnosis. As she paints, she talks about being on the receiving end of support. The painting includes the phrases: “Being loved deeply gives you strength; Loving deeply gives you courage.” The canvas will be one of several painted by patients and caregivers as part of the CompleteLife Art Show at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. The theme for the show is: “Strength. Courage. Creativity.”

With art therapist Lisa Rainey at her side, Hottman pauses and tries to put into words her inspiration. This is a woman who loves ballroom dancing, hosting an annual shrimp boil for family and friends, traveling to the Florida beaches and mostly helping others.

“It’s very humbling to be helped by others,” said Hottman. “When I got my first chemo treatment goodie bag with blankets and footies, it hit me hard. That’s what we used to give to women going through breast cancer treatment. The only thing I can say is it’s important to stay positive, rely on your faith and support system and take it one day at a time.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health. 
   Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.